Driving at night is more dangerous than driving during the day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that fatal car accidents are three times more likely to occur at night than during daytime hours. More accidents happen at night because people can’t see as much of the road ahead. This means that they have less space and time to bring their car to a stop. Some lights, such as overly bright headlights, can make night driving even more dangerous. Here are 11 tips to reduce your risk of driving at night.
Night Driving Tips include to Drive Defensively
Drinking and driving present a big risk, and since people tend to drink more at night, you’re at a higher risk of drunk driving at night. When driving at night, make sure you’re driving defensively. Defensive night driving tips include:
• Paying attention to your surroundings while on the road
• Not depending on other drivers to operate their vehicles safely
• Planning escape routes
• Eliminating distractions
• Considering safety first
To stay safe when driving at night, stay focused on your driving. Check the mirrors often and scan the road ahead. If you’re driving near a vehicle that seems to be driving aggressively, reduce your speed or pull off to the side of the road to avoid the car.
Don’t Depend on Other Drivers
When driving, be considerate of other drivers on the road, but don’t forget to watch out for your car. Never assume that another driver will move out of your lane or permit you to merge. Imagine that another driver will run a stop sign, roundabout, or red light—Ready yourself to react if they do. Decide how you would maneuver your car in the worst possible scenario.
Plan an Escape Route
The most effective way to avoid danger in every driving situation is to position your car where you have the best visibility so that other drivers will see you. Plan for an alternate travel path, an area where you can steer your car if your current course is blocked suddenly.
Driving distractions are anything that pulls your attention away from the job of driving. When you’re driving, you should give it your complete attention. Don’t text or make phone calls. Also, limit conversation with your passengers.
To reduce the risk of driving at night:
- Put safety first.
- Leave a lot of space between your car and the one in front of you.
- Wear your seatbelt and keep your doors locked while driving to avoid being tossed out of your car if you should be in an accident.
Avoid Driving When You’re Tired
According to the NHTSA, crashes due to the driver operating a vehicle while tired usually occur between midnight and 6 a.m. Be aware that sleepy drivers are likely traveling with you when you’re on the road late at night.
The risk of sleepy driving accidents is higher at night. This is because the human brain is hard-wired to rest and sleep at night. Don’t assume that you can drive for many hours without becoming tired. Researchers have tested drowsy driving. They found that if someone has been awake for 18 hours and operates a vehicle, it’s similar to being behind the wheel with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%, which is less than what is considered intoxicated but still impaired.
Take steps to remain alert. Drink something caffeinated or pull over for a nap if you feel drowsy. Listen to your favorite podcast or upbeat music. To stay alert, you can roll the windows down for fresh air, sing loudly or talk to yourself. Renting a hotel room for the night may be best to avoid driving when tired.
If your doctor prescribes prescription drugs for you, ask about the side effects. If you start taking something new, be sure to take it at home first to see how it will affect you.
Try to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep. Also, avoid driving if you’ve been up for longer than 16 hours. When driving long distances at night, stop every two hours and take a rest. Do your best to travel during the hours when you are usually awake.
Make Sure You Have Enough Light
While human sight is more limited when it’s dark, you can take steps to increase your safety when driving at night. Night driving tips include confirming that your car can support you visually after the sun goes down. Be sure to:
• Confirm that both headlights are working
• Verify that your windshield is free of streaks or debris
• Purchase anti-reflective lenses if you wear glasses
Check the angle of your headlights. If the lights are tilted down, you won’t have as much light as you need on the road. On the other hand, if your headlamps are tilted too high, they will blind approaching drivers. In some states, the annual vehicle inspection requires the inspector to check the angle of a vehicle’s headlights. If your state doesn’t, it’s a good idea to ensure that yours are accurately aligned.
Checking the headlights requires a professional, so the next time you have your car in for service, ask the service shop to ensure that your headlights are angled properly.
Clean your headlights often. If your headlights are cloudy or yellow, they will emit less illumination. This could decrease how far ahead you’ll be able to see at night. Also, move your car’s exterior mirrors so you can see your car’s body.
Take Advantage of Your Brights
Night driving tips include using your high beams. Often, drivers don’t use their high beams enough. When driving in rural places or along open roadways, activate the high beams to increase your visibility. Once you activate them, dim them within 500 feet of an approaching car. That way, you won’t put the oncoming car at risk by temporarily blinding the other vehicle’s driver.
Don’t activate your brights when you’re following another car. The next time you shop for a new car, consider getting one with adaptive light technology. These are great because they automatically adjust the car’s lights based on driving conditions. For instance, if a car is oncoming, adaptive lights will dim them mechanically at the appropriate time.
Manage the Interior Lights
If the dashboard lights up too high, shifting your gaze from the dash to a dark road in front of you may be disorienting. Lower the interior lights when driving at night to a level that makes them easy to see but won’t disturb your vision.
Also, use your car’s visors when it’s dark out to shield your vision from streetlights, store signs, and glare from other sources. New car technology includes vehicle mirrors that dim bright light reflection automatically.
Reconsider Traveling Down Two-Lane Highways
According to the NHTSA, two-lane highways are dangerous at night due to the nighttime glare from approaching cars. These roadways also have less light, sharper curves, and more hills than major freeways, making them more dangerous. If you have the option of taking a safer road after the sun sets, do it.
Drive More Slowly
The NHTSA reports that crashes caused by excess speed make up around 37% of all nighttime-driving deaths. This is compared to 21% of speed-related crashes resulting in daytime fatalities.
The reason why speed causes more crashes at night is due to less visibility and decreased reaction times. For instance, a headlight generally illuminates about 160 feet in front of your car, but even if you’re traveling at just 40 miles per hour, you would require 190 feet to come to a full stop.
Manage your speed based on the visibility conditions. When you’re driving at night, be sure to drive the speed limit or just under it.
Look Out for Pedestrians, Bikers, Animals, and Other Obstacles
Be attentive and keep an eye out for pedestrians by using your peripheral vision. Watch for joggers, bikers, and people crossing the road.
When drivers collide with a deer, it often occurs at dusk or when it’s completely dark outside. Accidents involving deer usually happen from October to January since the animals make their way out of the high mountain ranges to search for food at lower elevations.
Use your vehicle’s high beams to detect deer near the roadway. The bright lights will help you see the animal’s glowing eyes. If you spot deer, be sure to decrease your speed. It may startle you to see a deer close to the road, but try to avoid swerving when you see one. Instead, use your brakes to slow your speed. This can help you avoid an accident. If you swerve too quickly, then you may cause your vehicle to roll.
Watch out for other obstacles like road debris. When people transport items in the back of a pickup truck, they may forget to secure their load. While it’s important always to maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles, it’s a good idea to give pickup trucks that are hauling items in the bed even more space just in case something falls out.
Shift Your Eyes to the Right
Night driving tips include keeping your eyes focused on the highway, but you should not fix your gaze. Also, don’t stare at the lights that are heading your way. When there is an oncoming vehicle, avoid becoming blinded by the approaching lights by adjusting your gaze down and toward the right.
To remain on the road, watch the right side of the roadway or the lane markers. Once the oncoming vehicle has passed by you, return your gaze to the road ahead.
Prepare for Emergencies
Night driving tips include being prepared for emergencies. Even if you maintain your car regularly, you could still have a flat tire or another vehicle problem. Because of this, it’s a good idea to store emergency equipment in your vehicle. Store emergency items like:
• First aid kit
• Tire gauge
• Cell phone charger
Consider keeping jumper cables, flares, and blankets in your car for emergencies. These days, you should store antibacterial wipes and face masks in your car, too. That way, you can clean high-touch surfaces at your hotel or when using a gas station bathroom.
If you wind up in a nighttime emergency on the road, ensure your vehicle is visible. If you experience car problems, pull off the road and make your way to a place that’s safe and free of moving cars. Try to get to a service station or a parking lot before contacting roadside assistance.
If you cannot make your way to a service station or a parking lot, the shoulder of the road is safer than stopping on the road, but it can still put you at risk. Other drivers may fail to realize that your vehicle is stopped and may strike the back of your car.
When stopping on the road, make your car as visible as possible by activating the hazard lights. If you have a reflective safety vest in your emergency supplies, wear it. Also, use flares or reflector triangles behind the car. When setting up your visibility items, keep yourself safe from traffic.
Even if you’re comfortable changing a flat tire, doing it when it’s dark and on the roadside is risky. Call for roadside assistance to take you to a safe place to change your tire.
Have Your Vision Checked
Night driving tips include having your vision checked annually. As people age, glare from oncoming lights becomes a bigger problem. Be sure to tell your eye doctor if you have trouble seeing at night. Also, some people need a different eye prescription for night driving.